A review of Woking Borough Council companies leads to reform 


Friday, 15 July, 2022

Woking Borough Council’s Executive is proposing a number of governance reforms following a review of its companies.

Councils have the power to set up companies or bodies, which they own, for commercial activities related to their ordinary functions.

Woking Borough Council has 15 wholly owned companies and eight joint ventures. These include the ThamesWey group of companies, Brookwood Cemetery Limited and Victoria Square Woking Limited.

Cllr Ann-Marie Barker, Leader of Woking Borough Council, said: “The council has several companies which it either owns or has interests in, which were formed to deliver council objectives in a more efficient and effective manner. The recommendations we’re proposing will improve governance of these companies in line with current best practice and allow the council to closely monitor its interests with greater clarity, transparency, and reporting.”

Under the new governance arrangements being put forward at Full Council on 21 July, councillors will no longer be appointed to company boards avoiding a possible conflict of interest. Instead, there will be increased opportunity for all councillors to review and scrutinise what companies are doing to ensure that the social objectives set by the council are not lost in the drive toward the overriding and essential requirement for a company to be economically successful.

The recommendations include the creation of two new officer posts to put relationships between the council and its companies on a proper business-like footing by cross-charging for financial and legal services. The council also needs to satisfy itself that sufficient standards of operational governance, legal and company secretarial compliance and effective financial management within its company are adhered to.

Cllr Barker added: “These reforms fit with the work we’re doing to get the council’s finances on a sustainable footing and support other commitments set out in the ‘Woking for all’ strategy, including conducting council business with openness and transparency, and ensuring we’re a high performing council.

“We’re proposing creating an area on the council’s website exclusively for council owned companies, which will provide residents with high level information about what our companies do and how we govern them.”

To read the company governance report going to Full Council on 21 July 2022, go to www.woking.gov.uk/fullcouncil.